Gaboon Viper Found In Maine

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 9th, 2010

A dead Gaboon viper is displayed on the trunk of a Saco police car. The Maine Warden Service is trying to identify the snake’s owner. Courtesy photo.

The Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica), a venomous viper species known from the rainforests and savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa, is also referred to as the butterfly adder, forest puff adder, and/or swampjack. I wonder if the Maine Warden Service, after their investigations are complete, would like to donate the body for exhibition to the International Cryptozoology Museum, for public education concerning the dangers of keeping snakes like this in captivity? A display could tell of what a deadly mistake it is to release any such species into the wild.

Maine’s Portland Press Herald has this story in today’s March 9, 2010 edition:

Deadly African snake turns up on Saco trail

Fortunately for the finder, the illegal-to-own, highly poisonous Gaboon viper had died from the cold.

By David Hench
Staff Writer

Authorities are trying to learn how a deadly – and illegal – Gaboon viper came to be slithering along the wooded trails behind Cinemagic in Saco.

Like some eerie escapee from “Avatar,” playing inside the theater, the colorful viper stretched almost 5 feet and lay in the trail, much as the snakes do in their native sub-Saharan Africa as they lie in wait for prey.

But this one was dead, after succumbing to the cold of even a mild Maine winter night. The vipers prefer temperatures above 70 degrees; the temperature Sunday night dropped below freezing.

The snake was discovered Monday [March 8, 2010] by someone who was walking along one of the trails behind the theater, on the edge of woods that stretch out extensively to the east of Route 1.

The person didn’t handle the snake, but took a cell phone picture and then contacted police, who called in the Maine Warden Service.

“It appears it had been released alive, probably last night,” said Sgt. Tim Spahr of the Maine Warden Service.

“Somebody, in their mind, was releasing it into the wild,” Spahr said, noting that there are retention ponds in the woods, which might have seemed like good habitat.

The snake’s release could land the owner in hot water.

“They’re not legal in Maine. You could not get a permit for that,” Spahr said. “I don’t even know if they would be legal in the U.S.”

He said such a snake would probably have to be purchased on the black market – or on the Internet.

“I also think if you’re releasing something that is potentially dangerous or fatal to somebody, we would probably talk to the District Attorney’s Office about other charges related to recklessness,” Spahr said.

The warden service is investigating to determine who owned the snake, although Spahr would not elaborate.

He said wardens have encountered other exotic snakes, such as cobras and pit vipers, but never this species.

Read the complete article at the Press Herald site.

Meanwhile, half a world away, in Australia, the eighth person in six days has been bitten by deadly snakes. On March 9, 2010, an “unidentified snake sank its fangs into [a] woman’s foot, leaving two puncture wounds, in the lower Blue Mountains this afternoon…The attack came after a 35-year-old male snake handler was bitten on the nose and forehead by a deadly brown snake in the NSW Hunter Valley earlier today.”

Elsewhere, on “March 4 a two-year-old girl was bitten by a potentially deadly red bellied black snake in Badgerys Creek, in Sydney’s west. Five other people were bitten in various locations in NSW on March 7.”

Thanks to Chris for the news tip from Australia on the snake attacks there.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

7 Responses to “Gaboon Viper Found In Maine”

  1. Dr Kaco responds:

    Pretty lame to keep “Hot” snakes as pets. “Hot” referring to venomous snakes. I personally keep 2 corn snakes that grow to a max 6ft. (I’ll let you know if they surpass that Loren 😉 I just don’t think it’s wise to keep pit vipers. Let’s leave that to the Zoo people.
    Peace! 🙂

  2. Kalashnikovnik responds:

    I certainly am not glad the snake froze to death but imagine the havoc that could have been caused had that thing been released during the summer months when the weather might have been warm enough for it to survive for a while.

  3. cryptidsrus responds:

    Kalashmikovnik: I agree with you. And I personally do not see anything wrong with keeping pit vipers as pets as long as the people who won them are responsible, knowledgeable and ready to accept the consequences of keeping such a type of pet. Don’t be complaining if they bite you and you almost die.

  4. MountDesertIslander responds:

    Not only am I happy this snake froze to death, I wish the person who released it was out there too.

    How reckless, how stupid, how insane can anyone be?

    Are you kidding me!

  5. Dr Kaco responds:

    That’s why I say leave it to expert Herpetologist to keep hot snakes. Even then it’s not safe….look at what happened with Hurricane Andrew in Florida 😉

  6. mystery_man responds:

    It’s unfortunate that Australian snakes get such a bad rap. Many people like to play up the fact that Australia is home to such a large percentage of venomous snakes but this is disproportionate to the actual threat that these snakes typically pose.

    For one, most of these venomous snakes are quite shy and wary of humans. We are not their intended prey and they seek to avoid us if at all possible. In some cases venomous snakes don’t even inject venom when they bite defensively. Stories of snakes actively chasing down or seeking out humans to attack are most likely exagerrated.

    These snakes are not wicked creatures out to kill us. These are merely animals doing what they do and being brought into further forced contact with humans due to our encroaching ever more into their habitat. When you have us living in close proximity, of course incidents will occur, but in many cases these could have been avoided.

    Many of these bites could have been avoided with proper precautions such as watching where you are going, wearing proper footwear, and being mindful and respectful of your surroundings. Bites like these are typical to those who are careless or who handle snakes directly such as one of the reports mentioned here.

    There are actually relatively very few cases of completely unavoidable snake bites in Australia, and many other countries such as the United States, have a higher rate of deaths due to venomous snake bites than Australia does. I understand that more people die of honey bee stings than venomous snakes in Australia.

    The snakes are certainly not out trying to wreak havoc on human beings.

    I’m sure that there will be big media panics due to these bites, and attention drawn to Australia’s venomous snakes. Undoubtedly the news is tragic for those involved. However this media coverage will most likely be overblown and I’m afraid not truly representative of the actual situation.

  7. kittenz responds:

    “They’re not legal in Maine. You could not get a permit for that,” Spahr said. “I don’t even know if they would be legal in the U.S.”

    There are many places in the USA where it’s legal to keep “hot” snakes, even the most deadly. Some states have no regulations at all. You can buy Gaboon vipers legally in many states. Their venom is highly toxic, and they inject a tremendous amount of it, but they are generally considered rather placid, and although uncommon in captivity, they certainly are not unheard of.

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